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Saturday, September 29, 2012

UMNO TO BLAME for 'bad education policies' - disappointed parents


UMNO TO BLAME for 'bad education policies' - disappointed parents
Parents of today believe that their children’s global competitiveness would be better developed through an education outside of Malaysia, or the private schools that will eventually pave for overseas’ education.
And for this reason, parents with means – Malays, Chinese, Indians and Others – have even made plans to migrate before their children reach school age. The flip-flop Malaysian education policies, unfortunately, have created two groups of Malaysians – the elite and the non-elite.
Parents with choice
Parents from the elite group – this includes UMNO and Barisan politicians – are seeking an environment that could challenge their children’s mind intellectually. They still believe that it has to be education in English that can make their children achieve their aspiration.
These are naturally parents with choice.
The less fortunate group of parents – the non-elite – have to make do with what is provided by the government to them – the national and vernacular schools.
When policy makers dawdle with policies and politicians manoeuvre education policies for political gains, parents – including the politicians themselves – will be thinking of how to get their children out of the system.
Unsurprisingly, those with means will send their children overseas or to private schools for education, perhaps with a long-term plan to get them out of Malaysia.
“We have been facing a series of education policy flip-flops for the past 55 years that are infuriating the people,” said a Malay medical doctor who has all his three children studying in Australia.
“The driving force here is the ambiguous and fading education system that has fallen short of meeting parents’ aspirations,” he added.
The quality of Malaysian elementary and higher education has been unpredictable since the 1980s when Mahathir Muhamad took over as prime minister.  Despite talking high on achievement he did not have the political will to make English the core language for education.
Unwise decision
“Parents will often feel dismayed when they think of their children’s future. They, as anyone would expect, become contemptuous of the flip-flop education policies and feel frustrated when politicians do not adhere to their requests,” opined a father of two children.
Most parents feel that the abolishment of PPSMI (the Teaching of Maths and Science in English) has been a big mistake. And UMNO politicians must have made an unwise decision to pander to the voters’ emotions, chiefly the small group of so called “nationalists” - oddly, many of whom have their children educated overseas.
The government is now not even considering giving the option to learn Maths and Science in English in order to rein in the brain drain predicament the country is facing.
The English medium schools were abolished in 1969 to accede to the demands of some “rebels” at the expense of students being allowed to master the language. Little do these politicians and so-called “nationalists” want to recognise that most Malays and other races who could speak decent English today are the product of that old but effective system.
Most parents are not oblivious of the fact that being mono-lingual is not passable for their children to survive in this competitive world.
Abolishing the PPSMI would only prompt wealthy parents to send their children to private schools and this will significantly pave the way for a steady brain drain as most of them will end up going overseas for their tertiary education and may decide not to return.
The brain drain phenomenon
After all the trial-and-error approach to the education policies by the UMNO-led government for the past many years, parents and young Malaysians have lost faith in the country’s education ministry and their policies.
One reason to this is that politics has “eaten” into the education policies in Malaysia and both politics and education have together merged to spoil the broth.
It has now become a daunting task to convince bright students of all races to stay in the country after they have graduated. The Malaysian education policies are actually driving bright students out of the country.
This brain drain phenomenon knows no ethnic dimension with the predisposition to migrate or work abroad being high among all races – Malays, Chinese, Indians and Others.
More than half of the Malaysian diaspora are highly-skilled and tertiary-educated. This has been a great loss to the country.  To become a high-income nation, human capital is its best resource. The country has however lost almost 200, 000 talented ‘brains” within the past ten years.  Many of these people are now contributing to the growth of other nations.
To lure them back to the country has not been fruitful despite all the “incentives” offered by the government.
These diaspora cite “children’s education” as their main reason to turn down the offer. And a significant number of them are employed in Singapore, Australia, Europe, Canada and the US.
UMNO-led government has disappointed parents
Obviously all parents have great concern for their children’s education. This is an area where UMNO-led government has disappointed them most, especially those in the non-elite group.  The rot is especially obvious in the first six years of elementary education in the national and vernacular schools.
And the non-elite group has no better choice but to bear with the incoherent government education policies.
Opting for a bilingual or a trilingual education policy has seen its setback. It has failed to make students command the English language.  Neither can they command their mother-tongue or Bahasa Malaysia reasonably well. In most national and vernacular schools it’s not English but Manglish or “no-English-at all” that students tend to pick up.
After six years of elementary education they still end up with poor speaking and writing skills in the languages – particularly English.  It’s also evident that students are lagging in numeracy skills that are needed for higher education in all the respective fields relating to the sciences and technologies.
What disheartens the parents from the non-elite group most is when after six years of elementary education their children come back home without any basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Educationists are aware that these two skills are the foundation to all other disciplines of knowledge and yet the education system of the country has failed to fulfil these needs. Majority of schoolchildren have failed to grasp even the rudiments of all these skills after six years of education.
This irks almost all parents.
Bad policies
The dilemma faced by most teachers in national and vernacular schools is how to realise ideas into action – a theory-praxis problem – and to make schoolchildren grasp these skills before they embark on to higher education, especially when there are too many political interventions in the education process.
The basics required of children at the elementary stage are to see to their acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills. Unfortunately, education has remained an episode of stagnancy in the lives of majority schoolchildren all because of bad policies.
High-sounding jargons by politicians and “experts” written on papers and presented at seminars and functions are not going to help bring these basic skills to the children. It’s “back to basics” is the only solution to the predicament faced by parents and schoolchildren in Malaysian schools – both rural and urban.
These two areas are also seriously affecting students in developed countries.
“But bringing in technological gadgets to schools will not necessarily improve students’ literacy and numeral skills crucial at their elementary level. Schools need competent and dedicated teachers,” commented a graduate teacher.
Studies have undoubtedly shown that children who have strong numeracy and literacy skills at the elementary level are able to cope better with studies at the higher level.
“Just keep the political equations aside and ensure that those recruited to become teachers do have interest in the profession and are competent and dedicated enough to teach,” quipped a parent who has three children in the national elementary school.
The human touch
Lost for novel or old  ideas, some UMNO politicians and even educationists are advocating the use of advance technology to teach these two basic skills required of students at the elementary stage.
“No doubt, the use of technology is helpful in teaching and there can be some benefit in having students access to the Internet to seek knowledge and do interactive learning but studies have shown that this is more effective at the higher level and not the elementary level,” remarked a school teacher.
“At the elementary level it is still the human touch that is crucial. The “entertainment” effects of technology can often sidetrack students from being focussed on the subject matter,” she added.
Studies have shown that the formative years of education is where the impressionistic minds of children work most and they are most receptive to any kind of learning.  And they tend to forget fast too. Thus they need creative, knowledgeable, qualified and competent and patient teachers to guide them.
“Having qualified and competent teachers to handle students is more difficult than having computer gadgets installed in schools,” said another senior school teacher.
“There was a time when Brinsford and Kirby trained teachers taught us without much AV aids but students still performed well. They were mostly teachers who only had their higher school certificates prior to their training,” he added.
These were generally well-qualified and trained teachers who were dedicated and also proficient in the English language.
“Many were also trained to teach mathematics and science in local teaching colleges. They were equally good as those selected for the training were very qualified,” said a senior mathematics teacher.
Of course politics had less influence in schools at the time. Race and quotas of teachers were never an issue at all. Those genuinely qualified were accepted to be trained to become teachers. Many of our present leaders in the country – in all sectors – are the product of that system.
“Students of those batches speak reasonably decent English and those who have the numeracy skills have become competent workers in their respective fields, such as doctors and engineers,” remarked a retired teacher.
Have to bear with what is slated
UMNO politics has tainted the education policies of the country. These politicians belong to the elite group and together with the elite group of parents they will find the national and vernacular schools not the choice for their children.  The national and vernacular schools apparently are meant for the non-elite group in the country.
And it looks like the majority of the non-elite parents have to bear with what is slated for them by the UMNO-led government.
Malaysia Chronicle

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